Git, GitHub, & Markdown

Git, Github, and Markdown

Alice McGrath || June 2, 2023

GitHub OctoCat


  1. What are Git, GitHub, and Markdown? Why are they useful?
  2. How to write using Markdown syntax
  3. An introduction to GitHub and how to use it for collaboration
  4. Git version control commands and workflows

1. Basics

  • Git - open-source software for version control
  • GitHub - a popular code repository for sharing and collaborating
  • Markdown - a lightweight, human-readable markup language


What does it do?

Version control!

Git keeps track of file changes and enables you to label them and preserve multiple version histories of a project

Why use it?

  • Avoid file conflicts! Other collaboration/syncing tools are not designed for code
  • It helps you test code, troubleshoot, or ‘undo’ changes
  • Be intentional: package your changes logically, document and explain your work

GitHub octocat logo

What does it do?

It hosts code and enables users to manage collaboration on projects (using Git for version control).

Why use it?

  • Widely used to develop and share open-source tools and datasets
  • Free web hosting with static site builder (GitHub Pages)
  • Makes collaboration visible and transparent

Markdown markdown logo

What does it do?

It’s a markup language: it encodes information in plain-text to be machine readable. Markdown uses the file extension .md

Why use it?

  • Sustainable, open-source word-processing
  • Easier to read and write than HTML & other markup languages
  • Can be converted into any kind of document - including presentations like this one!
  • Used on many platforms (GitHub, Notion, Obsidian, Roam…)

2. Using GitHub

We’ll take a tour of a repository for an open-source word cloud generator


word cloud of US constitution

Creating a repository

  • Create an empty repository on GitHub or import one from your computer
  • Copy an existing repository (by forking or using a template)
  • Add recommended files: a for documentation, a license and a .gitignore

Your turn

Create a repo from the workshop template

  • Navigate to the repo for this workshop:
  • Click on Use this template and then Create a new repository
  • Give your repository a name and a description
  • Select ‘copy only main branch’
  • Your new repository has the same files and change history, but not a tracked connection to the original

Editing content

  • Use the pencil icon to edit the file
  • Add some text and save your work using the Commit changes button
  • Change the commit message so that it describes your changes, and
  • Select ‘commit directly to the main branch’ and click Commit changes

3. Writing in Markdown

# First level heading 

## Second-level heading

Paragraph with **bold** text and *italicized* text. 

[This is linked text](

![This is an image with alt text](imageurl.jpg)

See this cheat sheet for more markdown syntax.

Your Turn

  1. Open Visual Studio Code
  2. Create a new file (File > New File) named
  3. Open the file and write some content using markdown syntax: include headers, images, and links
  4. Save your file
  1. On the left sidebar, right-click on the filename and select Open Preview to see what your site looks like in rendered markdown
  2. Back in your browser, select Add file > Upload files.
  3. Drag and drop into your repository
  4. Don’t forget to add a commit message

4. Branching & Collaboration

Branching workflow

Branches make collaboration easier by avoiding file conflicts github branching diagram
  1. Commit changes to a new branch that diverges from the main tree
  2. Open a pull request to propose your changes
  3. A team member reviews the pull request and discusses any conflicts
  4. Merge pull request: incorporate your changes into the main branch

Your turn

  1. Make another edit to your file and Commit it
  2. Commit your change and add a commit message
  3. This time select ‘create a new branch & open a pull request’
  4. Review & merge the pull request
  5. Look at your repository’s commit history

5. Local vs. Remote

Git enables you to have a local version of your repository (on your computer) that is connected to the remote (on ‘the cloud’) version.

By pulling commits from remote to local and pushing commits from local to remote, you can control the version history of both.

Installing Git

GitHub Desktop

Install a GUI client (an application with a graphical user interface) such as GitHub desktop

Command line

Install Git here to use it from the command line and/or use Git/GitHub features for VS Code or another text editor


GitHub Desktop

  • Open GitHub Desktop
  • From the top menu, under GitHub Desktop: Preferences > Accounts > > Sign in
  • Sign in using your GitHub account credentials

Visual Studio Code

  • In VS code, navigate to the Source Control tab
  • You will be prompted to sign in to GitHub and authorize VS code with your github account
  • see also these instructions

Command line

Open a terminal window and type:

git config --global "Firstname Lastname"

When you push, you will have to authenticate to github with a personal access token

Clone the repository

  • Create a folder on your computer for workshops (if you don’t already have one)

Visual Studio Code

  • In the Source Control tab, you will see an option to Clone a repository
  • Select the new repository you have created

GitHub Desktop

  • Navigate to your new repository on github. From the ‘Code’ dropdown menu:
  • Select ‘Open with GitHub Desktop’ and put it in the workshop folder
  • Open the folder in VS Code (add folder to workspace)

Command line

  • Navigate to your new repository on github. From the ‘Code’ dropdown menu:
  • Copy the url ending with .git. In your terminal, navigate to the workshop folder and type git clone [git url]
  • Open the folder in VS Code (add folder to workspace)

6. Git Versioning process

Git workflow

Add or Stage changes

git add

After you create a new file or save changes, staging tells Git to track the file.


git commit -m "message describing my changes"

Package your staged changes and label them for others’ awareness


git pull

Update your local repo with any changes that have been committed to the remote repo


git push origin main

Send your changes to the remote repository and publish them on GitHub

Other commands

  • git status - see if you have staged changes
  • git branch branchname - create a new branch
  • git checkout branchname - switch to another branch

Your turn

  • Make some changes and save the files.
  • Stage your changes:
    • In VS Code, use the plus icon to stage a change (listed in the source control panel)
    • git add --all
  • Commit your changes, with a message
    • Enter a message into the ‘message’ field and select ‘Commit’
    • git commit -m "message"
  • After a few commits, push to the remote repo:
    • “Publish Branch”
    • git push origin main

xkcd comic on Git

Remember, it’s ok to mess up! Source: xkcd




Repo or repository (n.)
A discrete project on GitHub that contains a set of files, a change history, and a set of contributors. (E.g. this one)
Fork (v.)
To copy a repo’s files and version history to a new one with its own settings (preserves connection with original repo but doesn’t interfere).
Clone (v.)
To download a local copy of a repo on GitHub with a tracked connection to the remote repo.
Local (adj.)
On your computer.
Remote (adj.)
On someone else’s computer (aka ‘the cloud’).
Branch (n.)
A version of a repository with its own history. Branches can be created for a unique set of changes and later merged with the main branch to avoid file conflicts.
Commit :(v.) To package and label a discrete set of changes to a repository. :(n.) A set of changes that has been committed.



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Content by Alice McGrath and licensed cc-by-nc-sa